It has been well publicized in North Florida, that during the last few years there have been numerous spills from the Valdosta, GA water treatment plant. These spills flow into drainages that go into the Suwannee River, which, being upstream from Florida, have caused pollution in this river in Florida.
Patience has worn thin over the years as spills continued, but Valdosta just recently completed a new treatment plant, and the operators assured Florida water authorities that the problem was solved. This proved to be untrue, however, as spills happened again and again. Recent rains overwhelmed the facilities causing overflows, proving that the plant was obsolete the day it was completed. See our post “More Sewage Spills in Valdosta.”
Since Georgia has no laws requiring sewage or chemical spills to be reported to the public, this pollution issue remains a mystery as to the number and severity. Suwannee RiverKeeper John Quarterman is working to remedy this problem.
Florida, on the other hand, requires the reporting of incidences to the Department of Environmental Protection, which then make them public on their web page Public Notice of Pollution.
We decided to subscribe to the list of notifications and took an un-scientific survey over the course of a month. About 70 incidents occurred throughout Florida, with a huge variation of amounts released, causes and details submitted, but a rough calculation is that approximately 8,278,000 gallons of wastewater went into the ground or our waterways during the month from the end of November to the end of December, 2018.
Causes given range from excessive rain, human error, failed, corroded pipes and infrastructure, computer and electrical failures, and clogging from grease and rags. The cause of a 240,000 gallon spill in Osceola Co. was 5,000 pounds of rag/fiber material washed into the stilling well. Our comment: that’s a lot of rags.
Many incidents have no cause given, nor any quantity:
12/20/2018 Raw sewage spill located in the 500 block of Harlem Ave, Springfield, FL, impacting surface water (Martin Lake).
Mistakes are sometimes made in reporting: Boca Raton reported a 900 gallon sanitary sewer discharge, then several days later re-submitted it as 9,000 gallons.
And in spelling: “Fractured tank will be emptied, cleaned, limed, and properly scrapped.” New Smyrna Beach.
Repeat offenders include Tampa, Sarasota and Orlando, but the worst was Saint Petersburg. See our recent posts “Nearly 1 Million Gallons of Wastewater Spilled Around Tampa Bay,” and “St. Petersburg Surpasses Valdosta.” Over recent years St. Petersburg has released billions of gallons of wastewater. Some of the causes given for the eight incidents at the St. Petersburg facility in the past month are:
Operator inadvertently left backwash system in backwash mode causing pumps to not operate (Dec. 3);
Found a small reclaimed water leak (December 13):
Service saddle blew off the the main (Dec. 15);
A reclaimed water service line failed (Dec. 17.
A reclaimed water main sprung a leak in the 6100 block of 16th Lane NE. While securing the valve at the intersection of 60th Terrace & 16th Lane NE, the valve broke causing another leak. (Dec. 22.);
Service saddle clamp failed due to corrosion of the metal (Dec. 21);
A service saddle clamp separated (Dec. 23);
Computer control system malfunction (Dec. 26);
From this we can see that the St. Petersburg facility files regular reports to the DEP. What we can also see is that Florida cannot contain its human waste without regularly polluting the ground and its waterways. Yet our state agencies promote new developments, new industry and ever-increasing new residents and population, and always at the expense of our water resources. And we could add, at the expense of human health.
This is totally separate from the nitrate pollution from the green algae and the red tide.which is the news forefront due to its high visibility The new bill that Sen. Joe Gruters filed to fine polluters does not go nearly far enough. Low fines are simply permits purchased to pollute.
We must be the only animal that fouls its own nest for personal greed. Our bodies cannot adapt/mutate rapidly enough to avoid our poisoning ourselves.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-